Nelson Mandela: prisoner, president…gardener?

I’ve read several quotes by Nelson Mandela in the last day or so that were garden related so of course my curiosity was piqued and I had to learn more. I simply googled Nelson Mandela garden and a page full of articles came right up.  He gardened for the same reasons that many of us do… for peace of mind, for control over what were uncontrollable situations, and perhaps for the simple joy of it. Here’s the link to a post published yesterday by the  Christian Science Monitor.

Nelson Mandela: prisoner, president…gardener?.

In the post Kurt Shillinger, former Africa Correspondent for the Boston Globe, describes his experience living in South Africa at the time of Mandela’s presidency and his association with him as a journalist and a gardener.

“Gardening is a metaphor for life, teaching you to nourish new life and weed out that which cannot succeed.” —Nelson Mandela

May you rest in peace, Mr Mandela, in the most wonderful garden of all.

Michele

A Simple Thanksgiving Table

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After all of my planning and good intention about decorations, and centerpieces, and name tags, it came down to four simple candles arranged by my little guy, great food and my wonderful family.  That’s all that really matters, isn’t it?

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope your day was as blessed as mine was!

Love,  Michele

~Just a Few of My Favorite Houzz Thanksgiving Ideas

Gosh I love Houzz.  It is just so much fun to sit with a snack or cup of coffee for a few minutes and look over all of the ideas. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and I like to make it special so I usually make place cards and decorate the table with a little twist. I need some inspiration this year so I spent a few minutes looking around Houzz.com this morning.  I could post a thousand photos, but here are my favorites so far:

This first arrangement is just classic and pretty. I like the way the textures of the runner and ribbon accent the shapes of the pine cones.

Beautiful pinecones and textures again, but with a little bit of glam…

I don’t have a mantel but I  have a server that I could decorate like this.

Simple and restful… I love it!

And a different take on the idea,pumpkins that were painted white.  The “white” centerpieces really allow the food to shine.

Candles and acorns…

More white (white seems to be all the rage this year) embedded with upholstery tacks…

And finally, mason jars, candles, greenery and a nice natural wood base…

At the moment I may use white pumpkins, pine cones,mason jars, candles and some greens, with some asparagus foliage for color.

I’ll keep you posted!

Love, Michele

My Beach, Gingerbread, Philly, Bear, Pretzels, Chicks and CIA Vacation

Okay, so here’s the thing; I have a really hard time blogging about gardening when I have other things on my mind, things like my vacation. So I have to write this post and fill you in so I can move on with my life sometime tomorrow, maybe after the ten loads of laundry are folded and this post is published. If your bored please feel free to stop now, click off, come back next week, whatever works for you. I completely understand.  If you can just bear with me we’ll be all set and back to the tomatoes before you know it.

It started with a quick plane ride (all by myself), then real Philly cheesesteaks with some of my bffs  and my college roomies’ beautiful new yard..DSC03232This is peace and tranquility. There are no children living in this house or in this yard. They are all grown up and it was very, very quiet here. I took a nice walk in the garden, out past the Willow tree. A little while later Room’s (do you call your college roommate Room? Room and I do)  husband showed us a photo of a five foot long black snake that he had removed from their deck a few minutes earlier.  I took a few photos from the deck. Mr Snake was probably watching me do that. You know how I love snakes. I was watching for them too. Sorry, I can’t help it, moving back to the vacation…

P1070727We completely surprised another roommate for her birthday (a gift from her amazing husband) and enjoyed a Cape May weekend full of relaxing beach time and the kind of conversation that you only have with your college roommates who have known you forever and beyond. It was a really, really, really (really) … fun weekend. I love those ladies, there’s no one else like them!
P1070809Cape May is known worldwide for it’s  awesome gingerbread trim. I absolutely love awesome gingerbread trim.
WP_000406Then I went back to Philadelphia where I had even more fun, this time with my wonderful sister and my niece.
photoShe very kindly took me all the way up to the Pocono Mountains to meet up with my family and this big bear that traipsed through my mom’s yard. I looked out the kitchen window and he looked back at me. The photo credit goes to my quick thinking littlest girl who grabbed her Dad’s phone and took this picture.

photoThis one was taken by my little guy with his ipod.
IMG_2581He hopped up on the big rock to the left then walked through the spot where I grew my very first garden, right where that white grass grows now. This happened on my little guy’s eleventh birthday. Needless to say it made his day!
IMG_2565We all enjoyed a visit with the Callie’s Pretzel Factory guy…
IMG_2606and a mother hen and her chicks, and some school shopping. No photo needed for that, you all know what school shopping looks like.
IMG_2632We made a quick stop at the the Culinary Institute on our way home to Salem. This just might be my oldest daughter’s next educational environment.
photoThe view from this school is spectacular and the gardens are beautiful too. Stay tuned for more about that next week.

IMG_2658We came home last night to lots of tomatoes (I told you we’d get back to the tomatoes)
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and a very happy Winnie!

More Cape May and CIA coming soon! Gardens, more gardens, porches and gingerbread!

Whew, I think I’m back! Can’t wait to read my favorite blogs and catch up!

Thank you all! Enjoy Everything!

Michele

Happy Easter! It’s Time To Plant The Pansies

Usually I’ve planted some pansies by Easter, but this year between the late snows and our crazy schedule I almost didn’t make it.

This morning I managed to pick them up at the garden center, just in time.

Be not afraid!

Their very hardy and they’ll be just fine!

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Every March when I put them out people roll their eyes and tell me that they won’t make it, but they do…

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Give this pot a week or two and it will fill in with a mass of happy little pansy faces.

You can even eat the flowers if you’d like to!

Have I mentioned that spring is here?

Happy Easter!

Love,

Michele

Things That Work For Me–TV Turnoff Time

This week’s “Things That Work For Me” post could really be titled “Things That Work For Us”.

Every family has their own approach to the television’s place in their home from “its on all the time” to “we don’t own a TV”.  We live right in the middle. We do own a TV that we enjoy, but we set limits. The basic rule governing television viewing in our house is very simple;  It’s turned off every day from 10 am until 6 pm.  I must admit that there is sometimes an adjustment if someone is sick and needs a diversion to pass time or on really (and I mean really) cold, wet days when we can’t get outside. In the case of the latter we might watch a movie or turn it on at 5:00 instead of 6:00.

This very simple method of limiting TV screen time has many benefits, for example:

*We find other, active things to do.

*It provides some quiet during the day (one of my favorites).

*There is more cooperation and much less fighting among siblings.

*We spend more time together.

*Homework gets done early, with less fuss.

*We get creative and try new things.

*We read more and we go lots of places.

*Everyone is propelled outside to play, breathe fresh air and to spend time in the garden!

I could go on and on with my list but you get the idea. I’m not trying to speak in favor or against TV viewing, but rather I’m sharing an alternative that works well here in our house.

We started this last June and I’ve noticed that after a while the turn off seemed to extend beyond the “before ten and after six” time frame. When the tv is off for most of the day the habit is broken and it’s not the “go to” activity anymore. Everyone becomes engaged in other things and kind of forgets about watching it.

What works for you? Do you limit television and if so, how do you do it?

My inquiring, tv-less (most of the time) mind wants to know~

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Great Achievement at Salem High and 1000 Varieties of Pears in Salem!

It’s nice to wake up at 5:45am to good and interesting news in the paper.

The front page story in today’s Salem News is about our high school’s AP program. The rate of students taking advanced placement classes has risen dramatically and the success rate on completion has too!  Here’s today’s coverage of the Secretary of Education’s visit and the Massachusetts Math and Science Initiative Program’s recognition of our students. This creative program provides cash incentive to students who pass the AP exams, and to their teachers. My oldest son has benefited greatly from this program and I hope that his siblings will too.  The Salem Public School system has it’s challenges but the schools, students, parents and community are working tirelessly to overcome them. I’m so proud that my children attend the Salem Public Schools. Their education is amazing in many, many ways.

I also have to share this interesting letter to the editor, written by Jeanne Stella of Salem. It describes some of the horticultural history of the northern part of Salem and how the street names reflect that history. North Salem was once farm land and orchards. Imagine growing 3000 trees, with 1000 varieties of pears!  You can read Jeanne Stella’s letter here. We are a city of gardeners. It’s in the soil and it’s passed down through many generations!

I’m hoping to do a little bit of Halloween touring later today and tomorrow. We’ll see where the kids and I land. Photos will be coming!

Enjoy everything!

Michele

A Great Stop in DC—The US Botanic Garden, Children’s Garden

We were in Washington DC a few weeks ago and I treated myself to a walk in the US Botanic Garden.  I would have taken my  family with me for my walk but it was literally 108 degrees that day. They stayed in the cool air conditioned Smithsonian while I enjoyed the garden. Needless to say I had the whole thing to myself and it was glorious! I spent about 45 minutes relaxing and taking in every nook and cranny. One of the highlights was the Children’s Garden. It’s a beautiful child friendly oasis in the middle of all of the DC action.

The Children’s Garden is located just outside of the huge conservatory.

The plants are so varied.  The  shapes, colors, sizes and textures are really engaging.

The posted rules are simple and child friendly.

I saw pots of plants waiting for kids to put into the ground themselves.

Unfortunately I missed the photo, but I loved the concept!

There’s a fountain (pictured on the left) that children can play in and use to water plants. There’s a wonderful green-roofed playhouse!Along with places to hide and run…and to pretend and just “be”…It was easy to get lost in the whimsy and fun.

I hope that next time my children are in the photos too!

They would have enjoyed this… it’s a great place for families to learn, relax and spend time together while enjoying Washington DC.

I could have stayed for hours!

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Awesome Camping, Right Here in Salem!

I love camping! This week I decided to pack the kids up and head down to Winter Island for a few days.  Winter Island is a city park that is an island (connected by a causeway) right on the ocean.  It has a few amenities like a very rustic bathhouse and a camp store but it’s really all about the beach, the water and a little bit of history.

We’ve been going to the beach there for twenty five years but had never family camped. I was amazed that I could be so “on vacation” this close to home.

Our campsite was wooded and spacious.

And  the  views are spectacular!

This is looking in toward Derby Wharf and the city.

The island was historically a fort and more recently a coast guard base.

Here’s a post about it’s history that was written by  Salem blogger Beth Melillo a few weeks ago:

http://connectshore.com/2012/07/03/winter-island-a-personal-and-public-history/

There’s always something interesting to ponder.

Was this building used to store munitions or was it used for holding prisoners?

We really need to research that and figure it out.

Here’s the old sea plane hanger…

and a view from the back with one of the Salem Community Gardens sites in the foreground.

There’s the old barracks. I’d love to see this building restored and used again.

My kids have grown up playing at the playground.We used to go down for an hour before lunch and nap time when they were little.

There are flowers blooming all over the island.

One of the former caretakers loved to plant things and his handiwork is everywhere!

Casey’s gardens make me feel right at home.

The kids spent lots and lots of time exploring the tide pools…

Here’s a close up of some star fish that they found.

My little guy spends hours out there.

We did have to watch out for the critters that came out at night.

There were ground hogs and wharf rats. One night a skunk wandered right through our site as I was tucking the kids in.

We knew it was time to head home very early yesterday morning when Michael caught a raccoon pulling a bag of marshmallows through this hole that he (the raccoon) had chewed in our tent!

A little duct tape to repair the hole is nothing compared to wonderful family time and views like this!

Whether you spend a few hours or a few days, Winter Island is a perfect place to relax and get away!

Salem 101: A Walk around Salem Common

Yesterday I spent some time walking around Salem Common, a nine acre public park right in the middle of the city. It’s been public land for hundreds of years and was originally used as a pasture  in the 1600s, with ponds and a stream running though it. It was designated as a military training ground in the 1600’s and still hosts a military muster once a year. You can read more about the Common’s history here  at http://www.salemweb.com/guide/common/

As a former resident of the neighborhood it’s always fun to take a walk and take in the sights.

 People meet here to exercise, walk, ride bikes and play.

There’s a beautiful new playground..

When our kids were small and we lived a few doors away I spent many, many hours under that tree!

 There was a different play structure but the very same view. Such happy memories!

The walking path is covered by trees so it’s shady and comfortable.

here’s the view coming around the northwest corner

The common is lined with beautiful historic mansions.

Many of them were designed by renowned architect Samuel McIntire.

He created the original version of this  wooden archway as well.

It’s said to have been made for a visit by George Washington.

The Gazebo is the true focal point…lots of fun happens here!

Everything from the reading of the Declaration of Independence on the Fourth of July

to prom and wedding photos being taken!

The Salem Witch Museum is located on one corner (the two young people above both happen to work there)

The Witch Museum is a great place to gain a clear understanding of what happened during the Witchcraft Hysteria that Salem is so well known for.

The Common is quintessential New England, full of history and fun… a beautiful place to relax and unwind!

Hope you’ll visit soon! Hint, hint to all of my family and friends who are still planning their summer vacations  🙂

Have a great day! Enjoy Everything!

Michele